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Goethe's "World Literature" Paradigm and Contemporary Cultural Globalization

Goethe's "World Literature" Paradigm and Contemporary Cultural Globalization N A RECENT ARTICLE on the relevance of Goethe’s concept of “world literature” for contemporary comparatism (and, to a lesser degree, for Germanics), Hendrik Birus argues that Goethe’s notion can help the discipline of comparative literature to recognize both the limits and possibilities of its field of inquiry. Extensively drawing upon twentieth-century interpretations of Weltliteratur, he shows that this concept demonstrates how individual comparatists can construct discrete domains of inquiry that acknowledge both the world’s unity and an irreducible variety that forces us to make choices with respect to the texts we teach and research: “a systematic situating of comparatism and, thereby, of world literature as its object of inquiry cannot, in spite of a necessary cognizance of universalization, do without a counter principle of restriction” (444). Birus’s essay is one of the most cogent of several recent analyses that draw on the world literature concept to reexamine issues such as canonicity and crosscultural literary interchange and to show that comparatists must regard the entire world as their homeland in coming to grips with the “necessary but endless task” of treating the globe’s imaginative texts in a comprehensive context (457). Unfortunately, however, these analyses treat only tangentially the http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Comparative Literature Duke University Press

Goethe's "World Literature" Paradigm and Contemporary Cultural Globalization

Comparative Literature , Volume 52 (3) – Jan 1, 2000

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Publisher
Duke University Press
Copyright
Copyright 2000 by University of Oregon
ISSN
0010-4124
eISSN
1945-8517
DOI
10.1215/-52-3-213
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

N A RECENT ARTICLE on the relevance of Goethe’s concept of “world literature” for contemporary comparatism (and, to a lesser degree, for Germanics), Hendrik Birus argues that Goethe’s notion can help the discipline of comparative literature to recognize both the limits and possibilities of its field of inquiry. Extensively drawing upon twentieth-century interpretations of Weltliteratur, he shows that this concept demonstrates how individual comparatists can construct discrete domains of inquiry that acknowledge both the world’s unity and an irreducible variety that forces us to make choices with respect to the texts we teach and research: “a systematic situating of comparatism and, thereby, of world literature as its object of inquiry cannot, in spite of a necessary cognizance of universalization, do without a counter principle of restriction” (444). Birus’s essay is one of the most cogent of several recent analyses that draw on the world literature concept to reexamine issues such as canonicity and crosscultural literary interchange and to show that comparatists must regard the entire world as their homeland in coming to grips with the “necessary but endless task” of treating the globe’s imaginative texts in a comprehensive context (457). Unfortunately, however, these analyses treat only tangentially the

Journal

Comparative LiteratureDuke University Press

Published: Jan 1, 2000

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